Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ash Wednesday--Just Waiting in Line

"Anyone who has attempted to squeeze aboard an E train and get off at Lexington Avenue and 53rd Street around 8 A.M. on a weekday knows only too well what a zoo the subway can be. The other morning I was among the mass of journeyers cramming on to the two working escalators.

So was a youngster--age about 8--who looked up at his Mother.
Son: Mom, are we in line?
Mother: There is no line. This isn't school. This is life."
 --from the New York Times

I stand in a long and winding line.
In some ways I’ve been standing here
  all my life
  waiting, waiting my turn.
I remember my terror waiting in line
  to get that shot in school.
I remember waiting in line with all the
  other scouts hoping to be picked to play.
I remember that line when, in cap
  and gown, I reached out for my diploma.
There have been so many lines—
  waiting to get baptized, to get my driver’s license,
  to get married—to wait with all
  the other men for the Doctor to come
  and say: “It’s a girl...”
All my life, it seems I have been waiting
  in some line.
Sometimes scared, sometimes bored—
  sometimes excited.

And today I stand waiting in yet another line.
Waiting for what?
I do not rightly know.
To have someone mark my forehead
  with a smudge.
To hear those painful words: “Dust thou art
  and to dust you shall return.”
To remember moments ago we penitents prayed
  together: “Have mercy upon me O God...”
To move away marked by a smudged cross—
That wherever I go and whatever I do—
To try to remember that I will be
  or carried
  or loved
  or just forgiven.
And so, I stand in this long line
  waiting hopefully.
  --Roger Lovette

(I first wrote this poem last Ash Wednesday. Because I still stand in too many lines, because I greatly need to stand in this line--I share it with all the others that stand in line hopefully waiting.)


  1. have you ever read that book by ben patterson... i keep returning to it when the waiting gets hard

  2. Roger,

    I used this poem last night at our Ash Wednesday service at Faith in Georgetown. Thank you so much for sharing it!